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Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition
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AREA 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition

Bubbling Animatographs

A World Draft: Christoph Schlingensief's "Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition" in Vienna.

By Helmut Schödel, Süddeutsche Zeitung

In Iceland the Earth's crust is thin. Wherever you look there is bubbling and steaming and foaming. "This is where the gods and ghosts come out of their dwellings", says Christoph Schlingensief. He has read about it in the Edda, which Wolfgang Wagner had unburied for him at Bayreuth. He speaks about gods, and about quantum physics. "In earlier times", says Schlingensief while presenting his latest project "Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition" at the Burgtheater, "I would probably have asked Susanne Osthoff to come." But these times are over. "By the way, what's our new Foreign Minister's name?" he asks. "Look! I don't even remember. But it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter at all." He has stayed amongst the knights of the Holy Grail and has been to Iceland. So it is no longer necessary to make Lake Wolfgangsee splash over, as he had planned to do in his project "Chance 2000". Now he guides us to a world full of temples and particles, of gods and quarks. In the background: Wagner, Beuys and the all-round artist Dieter Roth. On a heap of myths and knowledge gained in new physics our bourgeois worldviews are vanishing.

"Area 7" is a place of liberation. We race through space on a blue ball - at a speed that is even forbidden on German motorways, and the Burgtheater, desperately clasping to the Ringstraße, is joining this breathtaking journey. So the brave director of the Burgtheater said to himself, "In the end all of us are astronauts", and allowed Schlingensief to remove the seating from the stalls and to put up his installations in the auditorium and on the stage: small and big animatographs, equipment that refers to the times when pictures became movies, the times of the lanterna magica, about which his friend, the artist Werner Nekes, has an amazing knowledge.

Area 7
Installation view: Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition, Vienna, 2006

The installations look like merry-go-rounds, but instead of people they transport the evidence of our existence, a collection of court exhibits representing our civilization. The merry-go-rounds are turning, or the observer himself is standing on a revolving stage, orbiting around them. Being aware of the fact that he is in the theatre and in view of the artefacts ranging from a death bed to chocolate bunnies, he may think: so this is the Rape of the Sabine Women. And with the Burgtheater he flies from the gods to the slums in Namibia, from Iceland to Parsifal.

Everything is spinning and turning. Between the space where once the stalls used to be and the former stage a Ferris wheel made from white sails is turning. There Elfriede Jelinek appears every now and then and reads a text which this time is difficult to understand also for acoustic reasons. But she already belongs to the gods herself, so that not each and every part of her work has to be understood any longer. Hermann Scheidleder, an actor of the Burgtheater, has dressed up as Hermann Nitsch. Beuys' larger-than-life death mask is on display, and you can have a look through peepholes in lockers to watch video images from Namibia. In a pram you can watch a video showing an old woman with a dummy in her mouth, which is painted with a swastika. So this is meant to be Riefenstahl? In the gods' animatograph from Iceland you can discover photos of Burgtheater actors. Beuys rabbits seem to rot until they finally celebrate a mass resurrection as Easter bunnies. Schlingensief creates a wonderfully unreal world in which pictures, voices and music superpose each other. He has turned the Burgtheater into a haunted castle. And even more: this is great world theatre without a single scene being acted.

What started as squatting has become an homage to the Burgtheater. Again and again the visitor disappears in the dark of the animatographs and immerses in a world that seems to be painted in mere black and white. But the merry-go-round keeps turning and allows the observer to throw a glance at the Burgtheater's illuminated dress and upper circles. Another depository of myths. The new Schlingensief, the one without agitprop, starts fibbing in a most charming way, as if he allowed the theatre to perform its epilogue.

Area 7
Installation view: Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition, Vienna, 2006

Already when attending the rehearsals one remained flabbergasted. Schlingensief had made great actors flock to the Burgtheater: Bernhard Schütz from the Berliner Volksbühne, Irm Hermann, and the cinema newcomer Robert Stadlober. But they all ended up without being able to make use of their professional skills, in the same way as the Burgtheater's director was not able to make use of the seating in the stalls any longer. They were just some of the exhibits on show that very evening - like Beuys, Roth or Jelinek.

After a rehearsal, Patti Smith turned up in front of the Burgtheater and murmured something like, "Nice to meet you". The punk idol herself! She was once married to the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and may just have had a phone call from Bob Dylan, but actually she is a convinced Wagner enthusiast, who since Schlingensief's "Parsifal" in Bayreuth has been one of his most fervent fans. During the performance she appears on the grand stairwell and sings an "aria" for "Area 7", for which she herself had written the lyrics: "We rose as children / To climb a ladder of gold / Our ship shall see no river / Yet hope shall hold."

On the biggest animatograph, the African one, there is a ship. A ship from Namibia that Schlingensief has had towed from a beach to the slums in order to commemorate Fitzcarraldo. In addition metal sheets like those used in the slums to build dwellings and video documents. The ship, too, is turning, but it is no promise for redemption. It rather seems to be the ship of the Flying Dutchman. Schlingensief's ship.

Christoph Schlingensief's "Area 7? is comparable to those evenings when - still at the times of Claus Peymann - theatre history was made at the Burgtheater, for example with Einar Schleef's staging of Jelinek's "Sportstück". The chitchat in which Schlingensief is merely referred to as a gifted muddlehead may now have come to an end once and forever, though it has to be admitted that on several occasions even friends of his work could not help shaking their heads, wondering. However, there is no doubt that his latest work is a world's first in all senses. Since his latest show of strength in Vienna, Schlingensief has come to be considered one of the really big German artists, something that unlike in theatre criticism has long been understood in visual arts.

Gallery: Area 7 at the Vienna Burgtheater, Jan. 2006

Additional information on Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition

- Area 7 Program Booklet - 96 pages with lots of installation pictures (PDF)
- Schlingensief at Burgtheater Wien - ARTFORUM magazine, May issue 2006
- Bubbling Animatographs - Süddeutsche Zeitung on Area 7
- Grand Master in Making a Mess - The Frankfurter Rundschau on Area 7
- Congestions in Front of the Holy "Archetypal Loo" - Salzburger Nachrichten
- The Global Oedipal Passion - Austrian daily Der Standard on Area 7
- Palpating everything as if it was the first time - Die ZEIT on Area 7
- "The Last Artist" - Austrian magazine "FALTER" on the Area 7 expedition
- Congestions in Front of the Holy "Archetypal Loo" - Salzburger Nachrichten
- Area 7 Gallery II - Impressions of the St. Matthew's Expedition in May 2006
- Area 7 Gallery I - Impressions of the St. Matthew's Expedition in January 2006
- Area 7 Panorama I - Panorama view of the Area 7 installation
- Area 7 Panorama II - Another panorama view of the Area 7 installation
- Burgtheater Vienna - Burgtheater website, ticket sale, schedule, information

Area 7 press reviews

- ARTFORUM 05/2006
- Süddeutsche
- Frankf. Rundschau
- Salzburger Nachr.
- Der Standard
- Die ZEIT

Picture galleries

- Area 7 gallery Jan.
- Area 7 gallery May
- Area 7 Booklet (PDF)

External links

- Burgtheater Vienna
- Filmgalerie 451


St. Matthew's Expedition with Christoph Schlingensief

Cast: Karin Witt, Irm Hermann, Jovita Domingos-Dendo, Patti Smith, Klaus Beyer, Christoph Schlingensief, Bernhard Schütz, Hermann Scheidleder, Björn Thors, Horst Gelonneck, Robert Stadlober, Karin Lischka, Abate Ambachev, Dirk Rohde

Burgtheater Wien
First Expedition at
January 20th, 2006

Christoph Schlingensief

Costumes: Aino Laberenz; Construction: Thekla von Mülheim, Tobias Buser; Dramaturgy: Jörg van der Horst, Joachim Lux, Henning Naß; Video/Cut: Kathrin Krottenthaler; additional Video/Cut: Meika Dresenkamp; Sound: Uwe Altmann; Assistant directors: Barbara Nowotny, Sophia Simitzis; Assistant constructor: Andrea Flachs; Assistant costume designers: Dagmar Bald, Veronika Mund; Assistant video: Marlene Prainsack; Director's trainees: Michael Csar, Sarah Wulbrandt; Construction trainee: Gabriela Neubauer; Dramaturgy trainee: Katharina Zobler; Webdesign: Patrick Hilss

Musicians: Klaus Falschlungerer, Perry Wurzinger, Gerhard Rosner, Muriel Stadelmann, Erik Bilic-Eric, Begleitmusiker Patti Smith: Clementine Gasser, Lenny Dickinson, Andreas Radovan

...and also the "Kunst in Aktion" class of the HBK Braunschweig: Alexandra Heide, Ellen Druwe, Yingmei Duan, Eun Hye Hwang, Tina Kramer, Franziska Pester, Dorothea von Stilfried, Malte Struck, Dennis Feser, Axel Loytved, Mirko Winkel

Stage manager: Roman Dorninger; Technical supervision: Christian Venghaus; Sound: David Müllner, Florian Pilz; Video/Burgtheater: Andreas Ryba, Stefan Göbl; Prop: Martin Dürr; Stage technician: Gerhard Weese